I live on Hoag Road in East Johnson. I chose this beautiful and once peaceful environment as a place to raise my kids and start a business 20 years ago. But Hoag Road has now turned into a funnel for ATVs on the Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association routes.
In the summer of 2018 ATV ridership increased drastically.
They ride by my house in groups of 10 or more from morning until dark — spring summer and fall.
I have a rental business on my property and my rental guests claim they don’t feel safe walking with their children on the road because of the number, noise and speed of these ATVs.
When I asked the association if they would lower the speed limit from 25 to 15 on the Class 4 portion of the road so that others could enjoy it as well, it refused.
A priority on my list of house rules for my renters is to drive by my neighbors’ houses slowly and cautiously, without music blasting or engines revving. Isn’t this just common sense when you live in a community? By contrast, each ATV creates 85-100 decibels of noise, which increases depending on the group size.
Some of the riders are courteous and respectful, and I want to say thank you to them. But there is a much larger group of riders who aren’t so kind, and I am scared of another summer of them speeding by my house.
I am troubled by their rude behavior, the trespassing and litter, the motor oil slick in the puddles and streams of the class 4 section of the road. I’m sick of being woken after 11 p.m. by their engines revving in the woods behind my house. Calling the police doesn’t help; there is no enforcement.
This coming spring the Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association has been given permission to drive ATVs into the village of Johnson, from Gould Hill (near Union Bank), along Main Street, to Route 100C (near Maplefields). They have also been allowed to use Railroad Street to cross the Lamoille River and connect to class 3 and 4 roads on the south side of Johnson.
The next stop on their route, if permission is granted by Morristown, will be to link up with the Mud City Loop. All of this will bring more ATV riders to our town, making the streets busier, noisier and more dangerous. According to a story in VTDigger, ATV injuries have more than tripled since 2018 and alcohol appears to be a factor in about half of the adult cases.
The association believes that more ATVs in town will be good for the economy, but is this true? Will this not encourage only one kind of tourism and drive others away, like those who come for a peaceful escape to Vermont’s countryside?
According to Steve Wright, former commissioner of Vermont Fish & Wildlife, the ATV Safety Institute, the not-for-profit subdivision of the national association for ATV manufacturers, said that “ATVs are intended for off road use only. Never operate an ATV on public roads and always avoid paved surfaces. … Public safety, traffic and noise affect a town’s economic stability because each of these things can influence property values and quality of life that drives housing purchases.”
Please vote yes to repeal the ATV ordinance in Johnson, and as state law allows ATVs on class 4 roads, vote yes to evaluate the environmental impacts of ATVs on class 4 roads in Johnson.
Kirsten Owen lives in Johnson.